The Ozark Trail Customer Service is a hiking, backpacking and, in many areas, cycling and equestrian trail in the Missouri Ozarks. It stretches from suburban St. Louis southwest to Arkansas. This natural surface trail is a true wilderness experience offering hikers the chance to escape civilization and get back to nature. The trail has a variety of terrain from rolling hills and scenic vistas to steep climbs and rocky descents. Hiking the trail can provide a good workout and can also help to relieve stress and tension from daily life. It can also provide a sense of accomplishment once the trail is completed.
The idea for a long-distance hiking trail in the Ozarks began in the 1970s when a group of public land managers, private land owners and hikers met to discuss the possibility of a trail. It was determined that a trail spanning the Ozarks could be routed over mostly existing public lands with only a small amount of right-of-way being required from private landowners. This approach offered several benefits, including the fact that it would not require an act of Congress to initiate the trail. It also allowed trail construction to begin simultaneously on several fronts, with each land manager responsible for the section of trail they owned.
Over the next decade, numerous trail partners worked together to build over 170 miles of new trail. The Ozark Trail Council was formed to oversee the trail. This group included representatives from the National Forest Service, the State Parks Department, the Missouri Conservation Commission and other governmental agencies as well as representatives of environmental groups and the local landowners’ association. This approach was a successful one, and the trail quickly grew to be a major outdoor recreation resource for Missouri.
Today, the trail is nearly complete. There are still a few sections that need to be finished, but the majority of the trail is open to hikers, cyclists and horses (except where it crosses private lands). The Trail is maintained by the Ozark Trail Association and by other organizations in the region.
When you hike the Ozark Trail, be sure to wear appropriate footwear and bring water and snacks. It is a good idea to carry a first aid kit as well. A map is essential, and remember that many trails leave the park and cross private or state lands. Make sure to be courteous and follow trail etiquette when sharing the trail with other users.
There are many ways to enjoy the Ozark Trail, from a quick hike to a thru-hike. Whether you choose to hike the Courtois Creek, Trace Creek, Middle Fork, Karkaghne, Blair Creek, Current River, Between the Rivers or Eleven Point section, you’ll find yourself immersed in the beauty of the Missouri Ozarks. Visit cliffs with spring-fed fens, rhyolite glades and igneous “shut-ins,” and spot wildlife along the way. Camping is popular along the trail, with options ranging from a dispersed campsite near mile 22 to a secluded tent site under red bluff walls on Huzzah Creek at mile 32.